U.S. sanctions Iran officials for protest crackdown

WASHINGTON Wed Feb 23, 2011 11:57am EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions against two Iranian government officials for what it said were human rights abuses against protesters following Iran's June 2009 disputed presidential election.

The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement that the Tehran prosecutor general, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, and the commander of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps' Basij Forces, Mohammed Reza Naqdi, were added to its Office of Foreign Assets Control blacklist.

The action bans any U.S. persons from transactions with them and seeks to freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction. It also subjects them to State Department visa sanctions.

The sanctions were imposed under an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in September 2010 that targeted human rights abuses the United States said were committed by Iranian government officials.

Dolatabadi was blacklisted because his office has indicted a large number of protesters, including individuals who took part in violent anti-government demonstrations in December 2009, the Treasury said.

Eight people were killed and scores injured in the clashes between security forces and supporters of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi.

The Treasury said the Tehran prosecutor general charged the protesters with "moharebeh," an Islamic term meaning waging war against God, which carries a death sentence. It said Dolatabadi has denied them due process of law and his office has systematically arrested reformists, human rights activists and journalists to quash political opposition.

"Today's designations highlight the complicity of two Iranian officials in significant human rights abuses against the Iranian people," OFAC director Adam Szubin said in a statement. "Dolatabadi and Naqdi have no place in the international financial system."

Reformist leaders in Iran say the 2009 election was rigged in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It touched off the biggest internal crisis in the Islamic Republic's 32-year history.

The timing of the U.S. sanctions, described by officials as a show of solidarity with victims of torture, persecution and arbitrary detention, coincides with growing anti-government protests in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The Treasury said Naqdi, the Revolutionary Guard commander, was "responsible or complicit" in the violent response to the protests, which it contends resulted in up to 15 deaths and the arrests of hundreds of protesters.

Prior to October 2009, the Treasury said Naqdi was head of the Basij forces' intelligence unit and was responsible for interrogating those arrested during the post-election crackdown.

It said he extracted forced confessions from high-ranking reformist leaders that were broadcast on television, and at least three demonstrators were reported to have died as a result of injuries sustained at a detention center that he supervised.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Eric Beech)

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